It mostly took the form of interviews and questionnaires, in which Tennov noted a number of consistent traits among many individuals who described their experiences of being in love. She defined limerence as a new term to encompass the features of this common experience. They are (paraphrasing and simplifying slightly):
- Frequent intrusive thoughts about the limerent object (LO), who is a potential sexual partner.
- An acute need for reciprocation of equally strong feeling.
- Exaggerated dependency of mood on LO’s actions: elation when sensing reciprocation, devastation when sensing disinterest.
- Inability to react limerently to more than one person at a time.
- Fleeting relief from unrequited feeling through vivid fantasy about reciprocation by the LO.
- Insecurity or shyness when in the presence of the LO, often manifesting in overt physical discomfort (sweating, stammering, racing heart).
- Intensification of feelings by adversity.
- An aching sensation in “the heart” when uncertainty is strong.
- A general intensity of feeling that leaves other concerns in the background.
- A remarkable ability to emphasize the positive features of the LO, and minimise, or empathise with, the negative.
- I would also add to Tennov’s list: a desire for exclusivity.
“That’s just love. You don’t need a special word for that.”
“Don’t be silly. Nobody really feels like that; it’s childish.”